Yikes, what downsizing will turn up! My friend Tony (have known him since art school in the early ’70s) sent some pics of me in front of the Escada store on E. 57th Street, just off Fifth Avenue, circa 1995. Some memories were certainly stirred up. Like the fact I am wearing total thrift-shop attire in front of a luxury-brand store. (Tuxedo jacket from my dry cleaner’s sale of unretrieved items, man’s red sweater vest, maybe from Canal Jeans?)

I had segued out of the cut-paper thing that I did in the 1980s, and was now working in loose brush (Keep moving!) Anything that could conceivably have eyelashes got them! (I think I was influenced by Lamb Chop. Or Brenda Starr. Or both.)

My recent obsession with octopuses reminded me of this:

I was hired to paint the entire storefront window murals, and my strongest memory is that I only had a depth of about 4 feet to stand and paint, between the window and the wall. Talk about being “on it!” I couldn’t step back to get any perspective, so I constantly ran up and down the stairs to the street and crossed over to Tiffany’s to see what I had done. I am not one who enlarges by a grid system—I just “eyeball it” and hope for the best. Occasionally I’d get a honk from a truck driver who’d give a thumbs up—equal to any art director’s approval!

Facing the right of Escada is Burberry. In 2001 they would take over the Escada space and I’d soon be doing murals there, only in the fire staircase that few saw. But that was OK. By then, the fire captain who used to detour his truck down from Harlem to wave at me working in the Escada windows had perished in the World Trade Center. It seemed fitting that I would be embellishing the fire staircase. His last recorded words would be in the staircase at the North Tower.

“3 Truck . . . and we’re still heading up.”

But in 1995, he met me at Escada and we went next door where he treated himself to something he always wanted: a Burberry trench coat. He wore it better than any guy I’d ever seen.

My octopus obsession had become a carrot at the end of the stick during the winter of 2020. After the pandemic lessened a bit, the NY Aquarium was again open! I made a beeline to the lone octopus, who was lethargic in the corner of her tank. I guess even octopuses get the blues.

Burberry visual display art for the NYC grand opening on 57th Street 2001

art and words copyright Sharon Watts

(oh) My Corona!


I hardly know where to start. Creativity in the time of Coronavirus—when all this human brain wants to do is create order in a world chockfull of chaos? Now, under New York state lock-down, I have the perfect opportunity. All my piles, all my files, all my styles—and all my guiles (procrastination being the prime suspect)—are staring me in the face. No mask can protect me from what’s right in front of me. I am going to toss into the mix, in no particular order, some of what I have been dabbling in. Au courant, and going back my entire life.

The original art (above) is from several years ago. It was just sitting here in a “to file” pile. Pretty apt, right? What I couldn’t find was the photoshopped original scan. So here are cut marks, scars, the whole tactile mess. I keep clearing my computer desktop, hoping the “prettier” one will turn up. Meanwhile, I kind of like this, just the way it is. Validation from a mental health professional:  Brain Fog is NORMAL!

I began several series of collages years ago, only to hit an impasse. This one was half-finished until last week, when I added a pocket, a picket fence, and a protective pad (from a raspberry container). “Ring Around the Rosie” entered my head at the time I started it, a nursery rhyme supposedly written in the time of the bubonic plague. (And yes, this is me.)

we all fall down

Sometimes a poem wants to come out.

NAVIGATING A DREAM (based on a dream from 2017)

I look at a map.

The paper kind, with folds and

bends you can never find again.

I am determined that I can get to

where I’m going.

Relief trickles in.

I could walk, from here to

there though it may take weeks,

even months. They say it’s the journey

not the destination.

There’s no panic in me.

No need to refold the map as

precisely as I found it.

I won’t be using it



Mi-ro 4-20

I am having a hard time committing to a sketchbook. I only have cats around me. Still life and room interiors don’t interest me. They have been done far better by Vuillard.


And yes, I am also going through paper ephemera that includes things that have hung on my bulletin boards decades ago. Like that. Like this:

Eyes w:o a Face

And yes, I jumped on the sewing wagon early, once it became clear that the Defense Production Act was not going to be called into desperately needed service, contracting professionals to manufacture masks during this pandemic. Oh, no—let the burden and privilege fall on average people who want to do something, however inadequately. I started with this:

kitty mask


and it evolved into this:

Reid mask

So, to end this post, I will return to something I received in the mail back in October. A huge carton of anti-viral Kleenex (that I never ordered, never would have ordered, and never knew who sent it), arrived on my doorstep. I was never billed.

Kleenex box

I often wonder about prophesy and fate, and serendipity and signs. I am getting used to the “not knowing” in this life. And hindsight always provides tantalizing clues.



Cabinet of Childhood Curiosity

I recently submitted a proposal and was accepted into a curated group exhibit for Women’s History Month at the Howland Cultural Center, here in Beacon, NY. The topic was enticing: Girlhood. Oh boy, was this ever custom-meant for me and my kind of personal art! One foot is always in my girlhood.

Girlhood overview

Looking back all these years, I assume that I asked questions from the time I learned to talk—what child is not curious? My nuclear family really was perfect, so I know when the answers stopped coming. My father simply disappeared from my life, in 1957, and my big question was Where’s Daddy? What I remember first was being in our linoleum-floored kitchen with my grandparents and asking Why is Mommy crying?  I have no memory of having his death (electrocution on the job as utility pole lineman) explained to me, or going to a funeral, or ever being comfortable asking questions or talking about any of it with my mother. Not until lately.

With the recent escalation of a nuclear pissing contest between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un, I found myself having a bit of PTSD. Childhood fears are being resurrected from the Cold War. I grew up in the era of “Duck and Cover,” and here we are again. Of course, ducking and covering was a joke, but the threat itself was very real, and still is. The idea that we could simply hide under our desks to avoid the blast—who knew how ludicrous that was back then? Answer: A lot of people in high governmental positions. But that’s the propaganda pablum they fed us. And I was very frightened, especially when Nikita Krushchev thundered on our black-and-white television sets: WE WILL BURY YOU!

GH 2

Old electrical manuals and my civil defense booklets from the 1960s, a charm bracelet with the ten commandments, glitter, some toys, and my childhood art

Where did I find solace and a sense of safety? That is what makes up this installation. Sifting through a lifetime of personal archival material, as well as trinkets I’ve collected for my assemblage art (that connected me nostalgically to my childhood), I address my unanswered questions, my fears, and how I navigated my girlhood—steeped in family love, but also loss.

GH 3

More vestiges of growing up in the 1950s & 60s along with a very early book of poems

GH 4

Prayers weren’t working for me, so I switched to Mighty Mouse. “Here I come to save the day!” Gauges and gee-gaws. My childhood bank. A buddhist prayer flag with my questions.

At the center of the installation is my first assemblage art done in 1996. That was when I began to seriously address my past and how I became who I am today. No longer afraid to ask questions. Now I also write poetry to make peace with what I may never find out.

Insulating Materials



I ask now what you remember.

For me:

Air raid sirens pierce arithmetic lessons as we

practice for nuclear war.

My classmates and I scramble

under wooden desks:

girls’ plaid skirts tenting pale knees scabbed at recess and

even the boys are quiet.

Spitballs at a cease fire.


You say you don’t remember much.

A hint:

Did you ask me what I learned in school that day and did

I already know not to

disturb you with my fears?

I almost forgot:

Got a hundred per cent on a spelling test and

Mike Clark ate a red crayon.

And I can’t sleep at night.


Copyright Sharon Watts 2018

Activist, No Longer “Act(ing) As If”


what I made for the Women’s March on NY

A roaring tsunami of peacefully protesting pink pussy-hatted women (and men! and kids!) washed over the planet last Saturday. I was one drop in that ocean, finally finding my voice after forty-five years of legal adulthood, where I was (mostly) not rocking the boat / being seen but not heard / being a “good girl” instead of a “nasty woman.” I now intend on being an active, not passive, voice in what is a truly terrifying time in our nation’s history.

Here is one tributary of that pink wave, the one I was a part of in the Women’s March On NY.



I had already been commissioned in the past year to do some activist art for YogaCityNYC. The first was to address sexual harassment in the yoga world, a symbolic illustrative logo to accompany several articles and a community discussion.


Then came an illustration for a Vagina Scrum)


and finally, now that the election is over (and the P****Grabber-In-Chief is still whining and tweeting and in denial about his 3 million + loss in the popular vote), this:


Every week, YogaCityNYC will suggest ways to not go quietly into that abyss,

with “Do This Now!

I was going through some of my art from the early 1970s, tucked in my attic, and discovered a student book published by Parson’s School of Design right at the time I was graduating. Just a few months ago it seemed as quaint as my Beatle scrapbooks. How far we had come! Now, it is au courant, all over again. Take a look.








That’s nearly one half of a century. We had come so far. We can’t give up that ground.

copyright sharon watts

Parsons School of Design credits:

1/Angelo Foccacio, 2/Bruce Handler, 3/unknown student poster, 4/Tory Ettlinger, 5/Sheryl Saks, 6/Alan Wood, 7/Melissa Schreiber

Before SoHo Became SoHo-hum


At about the same time that Rosanna Arquette’s character was “Desperately Seeking Susan,” deep in SoHo, I was in the same neighborhood desperately seeking a new frontier. It was the mid-1980s, and for nearly nine years I bore witness to the once desolate streets paving way to packs of traipsing tourists elbowing me off my own sidewalks. SoHo was no longer my backyard, but becoming a brand.

I moved to Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn, a mostly West Indian neighborhood that had taken root during “white flight” in the 1960s. On the corner of Washington Avenue, my once grand prewar building loomed with others along the Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux-designed thoroughfare, in dogged determination. They were up against the invading crack epidemic and race tensions between Lubavitcher Hasidic Jews (who also had a stake in the area known as Crown Heights), and the struggling black community. The exhilaration of uncertainty laced with creative potential zapped me almost the way it had fifteen years previous, when I first moved from the suburbs of Pennsylvania to a down, but not quite out, New York City.

(Ford to City: Drop Dead!)

Across the street I faced the splendor of the Brooklyn Museum of Art and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, behind me were doberman pinschers on brownstone rooftops patrolling the drug dens below. I was sandwiched in between, and continued working in my sprawling apartment on my commercial illustration, delivering it to Manhattan clients in person via the IRT.

While SoHo was busy morphing from an art mecca to a shopping mall, there were some genuinely exciting moments, as street art and graffiti blurred with fashion, fame, music, and action. Inevitably, innocence soured into irony that girded the cast iron district, and Art and Commerce clamped together, squeezing out anyone and anything that could no longer survive or no longer wanted to.


But before the tipping point, living in SoHo was fun and thrilling. I was creating fashion art churned up by street energy and the music on my MTV.

(Beep Beep!)

black T, white jacket

1980 – Steven Meisel’s adult class

Ilsa - fabric collage - 72

Early 1980s – mixed media (fabric, paper, pastel)

Angst - 72

1980 – Steven Meisel adult class

 cut paper-pyramid.jpg

Miami Vice/Bowie influence (mixed media). And who didn’t have Wayfarer Ray Bans?

Ms. Skein - 72

Ms. Skein ~ Promo for Wool Council (mixed media)

Cut paper

Cut Paper

Hello - cut paper

Cosmopolitan Magazine job – mixed media (Cello-tak & paper)


All street photography snatched from the internet.

All art Copyright Sharon Watts

More links to SoHo street art:

The SoHo Memory Project

Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York


Carrie Donovan & The Gray Lady & Me


In 1991, I was being photographed in front of The New York Times building on West 43rd Street, its globed lamps and distinctive typeface serving as focal points while prompts were called out by the photographer, George Lange. My large art portfolio was wedged under my arm, tight against my leather biker jacket-clad torso. With my Great Aunt Lenora’s crocheted scarf cocooning my neck and a tube skirt snug around my legs, I strode down the block like I owned it. Looking slightly up, my face was captured in a smile, crimped along the edges with a bit of self-consciousness.


I was chosen by The New York Times fashion editor Carrie Donovan—a character right out of the Audrey Hepburn classic film Funny Face—for a Sunday Magazine feature story about Manhattanites deemed to have personal style. Carrie, in her ubiquitous black and leopard prints and super-sized accessories, saw me once a week in whatever ensemble I had thrown together that day; I was also the illustrator she had chosen for her By Design column that appeared Tuesdays in the newspaper’s Style section.

I would enter the mythic, monolithic building from the street and head over to a line-up of phones on a marble ledge, waiting to be called into their roles as liaisons with people higher up in this bastion of journalism. Dialing Carrie’s extension, I passed the receiver to a security guard, then got the nod to go through the turnstiles and over to the elevators. Once I landed on nine, I made my way through a moat of bullpen cubicles, then was given the signal and admittance to Carrie’s inner sanctum. Now I would experience the heady feeling of being the center of her universe for ten minutes, as I presented my art for her approval.

NYT__By Design__Trends

“This is divine!” she might warble.

Or “Hmmm, don’t you think it’s just a bit de trop?”

NYT__By Design__stretch fabric

Sometimes, if she was just finishing up the story, I had to do the job entirely on the spot. This last minute deadline would send me around the corner to the design department to borrow art supplies and a surface to work on, a pearl-encrusted fashion gun to my head.

My weekly gig was fun, sometimes stressful, but most of all, a fulfillment of destiny. I had promised myself when I was a teenager that I would one day be in The New York Times. I had meant my artwork, but here I was, like Marlo Thomas in That Girl, and Mary Richards in The Mary Tyler Moore Show, in love with my job, my life, and most of all, my city.

I did this for nearly a decade, during which time Carrie eventually retired and passed the reins of By Design to Anne-Marie Schiro, and The Gray Lady went to color. I still was making my weekly rounds, in person.

That wasn’t Carrie’s final act, however. She went on to be a surprise hit in Old Navy TV ads.

On November 12, 2001, Carrie passed away. I hadn’t noticed, hadn’t realized, hadn’t wondered until much later. I was too caught up in post-9/11 and missed her obituary. When I found out, I was dismayed that this grande dame had quietly left the stage without my being able to say au revoir.

So I’ll say it now. It was a pleasure working with and for you, not a bit de trop, and always divine.

A Blair Affair

1980 - Blair in leather copy

In the late 1970s and early 80s, the punk scene in New York City was settling into a creative humus for artists of every ilk. Even if you didn’t frequent the Mudd Club, its vibe permeated the air and you absorbed it by osmosis. The era’s music dictated the creative arts: Patti Smith was high priestess in her white tattered T-shirts and skinny black jeans. Jesus died for somebody’s sins but not mine, she snarled in a plaintive three-note mantra. The very notion of “fashion” was tossed in a shredder and literally pinned back together. I was taking an evening fashion drawing class at Parsons School of Design, taught by Steven Meisel, my contemporary, an illustrator for Women’s Wear Daily (just before he went on to achieve superstardom as a photographer). In our very first class he cracked the whip and commanded: FUCK IT UP!  Which meant carving into the drawing pad with our pen as scalpel and excising whatever in our artist-psyches was pretty and polite and safe. Play up the dark, the extreme, the anti-fashion. That was all this “good girl” needed to hear.

Years later I am rediscovering my drawings from that class and remembering that time, along with my friends Michele and Robin. We agree on one thing: Blair was our favorite model. She was petite with short-cropped white-blonde hair and bee-stung red lips, and wore the best fashion retro-mix of anyone I’ve ever known. It was impossible to get a bad drawing of her, she was that good. We didn’t know at the time that she too was a talented artist. Thirty-three years later, Blair Thornley is a successful illustrator and animator whose art looks exactly how I would imagine it to. Wonderful, magical, uniquely Blair-like. Take a peek into her world HERE.

What I found in my attic:

Blair in overcoat 1

copyright sharon watts

Blair on Red - 72

copyright sharon watts

Blair - KPB style

copyright sharon watts

Blair in shorts - top

Blair in shorts - bottom copyright sharon watts

We drew on 18 X 24 pads, often still not getting the whole figure on. My drawings from this time don’t fit on the scanner, and despite Robin’s patient tutorial in splicing, I am still fumbling in Photoshop, lost in layers.

Blair on magenta

copyright sharon watts

Blair on blue

copyright sharon watts

Blair gesture 2&3

copyright sharon watts

Blair gesture 4

copyright sharon watts

Blair gesture 5

copyright sharon watts

blair contour

copyright sharon watts


Michele Wesen Bryant and I have almost identical drawings, since we were in the same classroom. She has gone on to teach and write, still at the cutting edge as she inspires and guides her fashion design students.  Her archival masterwork of Women’s Wear Daily art is collected in WWD Illustrated: 1960s — 1990s


copyright Michele Wesen Bryant

CLICK HERE for a post from Michele’s blog MORE FASHION DRAWING, where she shares more art and Steven Meisel stories.


Robin drew Blair in Richard Rosenfeld’s class at Parsons School of Design in the early 80s, just after Meisel got his first photography break. He never looked back. She and I hired models together in the 90s, but not Blair. By then she was on her own brightly-lit path. Robin is now a successful designer at Robin Read Art & Design.


copyright robin read


copyright robin read


copyright robin read

The lean and mean street looks of the late 70s and early 80s billowed into the era of MTV, opening the doors for video to become the premier enabler of fashion extremism and celebrity-worship, with the Material Girl muscling her way onto the scene. Ironically, it was Meisel who took some of her earliest photos. Meanwhile, some of our classmates and models and other artist contemporaries were dying of AIDS.


all images copyrighted

Plenty of Plaid-itude ~ From Baby Steps to Burberry


I think I probably learned how to walk wearing plaid. Growing up in the ’50s meant Peter Pan collars and puffed sleeves and plaid (oh my!)

Years later, around the millennium, I would be immersed in Burberry plaid, participating in the company’s makeover from dependable, upper crust yet slightly dowdy British icon to its incarnation of everything hip. Kate Moss modeled and young Japanese fashionistas made a B-line to the NYC 57th Street store. That shopping bag was wallpapering the whole town. Meanwhile, I still couldn’t afford it, didn’t particularly like it, but it was sure fun to draw!

I was hired by the VP of visual display to create a series of iconic British scenes for the flagship store on Regent Street, London, with the loose line and sense of whimsy that had become my trademark. Painted on Arches watercolor paper, my palette was black and white with the traditional beige and red. I lay the line down first, then added the plaid in gouache. Over several years I ended up completing over a hundred paintings for store launches in cities all over the world. After London came New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Paris, and Barcelona. I had plaid Eiffel Towers, and King Kong with a plaid scarf wrapped around his neck as he climbed the (matching) Empire State Building. Barcelona’s Gaudi mosaics were maddeningly plaid, and the Hollywood sign was no longer white, but…Yep. You get the idea.

Campaigns come and go. My paintings that used to adorn all these stores (I even played Vegas) are who knows where, now? The original art was never returned to me, as it should have been. I tried to reclaim it, or at least locate the persons responsible for the accountability, but September 11th had happened and I was distracted and exhausted. To Burberry I was just a vendor. I pushed away all my plaid-painting memories, with nothing left but the aftertaste as a bitter reminder of how so many things in my life had suddenly turned sour.

Last week I got an email out of the blue. A young man in London had been given a piece of framed art from someone’s office in the Regent Street store, after it relocated. A tiny name at the bottom led him to me through some google detective work. Was I the artist, he asked?

Yes, I am.


This one was a self-promotional mailer:

burberry empire stateAnd below is a tiny fraction of the Burberry art that I did between 1999-2002. Back then, I had no scanner and the discs that I obtained were incomplete.

Click on image to enlarge.

So, I “Heart” New York and I love L.A.! Thanks for the memories of dressing you up in plaid.

Breakfast at Burberry's








And one more parting shot, from last year. The scarf was a gift. It is warm.

I still can’t afford Burberry.


all art copyrights belong to Sharon Watts

Hopping The Pond @1984

This gallery contains 11 photos.

 In 1984, girls just wanted to have fun. And I just wanted to draw, dress up, and watch MTV. Lately I’ve been waxing nostalgic for an era that seems like just a few years ago, surely not the quarter century … Continue reading